AU eviction: SA, Israel tensions grow

AU Commission Moussa Faki.

AU Commission Moussa Faki.

Published Feb 20, 2023

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Cape Town - In what is likely to cause a diplomatic storm between Israel and South Africa, the charge d'affaires at South Africa's embassy would be summoned for a reprimand, Israel's Foreign Ministry has confirmed.

This follows the dramatic removal of a senior Israeli delegate at the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the weekend.

South Africa and Algeria were apparently behind the move, according to reports.

But the African Union’s commission spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said Israel’s foreign ministry’s deputy director general for Africa, Sharon Bar-li was removed because she was not the duly accredited Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia.

“The individual in question is not known to the AU Commission as the duly accredited Ambassador of Israel to Ethiopia and was duly asked to leave.

The Ambassador of Israel to Ethiopia is Amb Alily Admasu.

Only duly accredited ambassadors to Ethiopia received an invitation which is not transferable, and is considered as a courtesy.

It is regrettable that unauthorised individuals would abuse such a courtesy,” he said.

Israel has blamed the incident on South Africa and Algeria, two key nations in the 55-country bloc, saying they were holding the AU hostage and were driven by “hate”.

Israel’s foreign ministry said Bar-li was an accredited observer with entrance badges.

"Israel looks harshly upon the incident in which the deputy director for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with entrance badges," the foreign ministry said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the charge d'affaires at South Africa's embassy would be summoned for a reprimand.

“The attempt to cancel Israel's observer status has no basis in the organisation's laws,” the ministry said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya called for those making allegations that South Africa and Algeria played a part in the decision, to substantiate their claims.

“They must just substantiate their claim, that's all we can say,” Magwenya said.

ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said they were encouraged by the AU’s ousting of Israeli representatives from the Summit.

“The ANC’s stated views on apartheid Israel remain relevant to this day. Independent reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch firmly define the character of Israel as that of an apartheid state.”

“The ANC is against the AU granting apartheid Israel any observer status. Africa's colonial history and apartheid Israel's present oppressive nature towards Palestine demands that all pressures be applied for the sake of all Palestinian people, including women, children and families,” she said.

South African Friends of Israel (Safi) spokesperson Pamela Ngubane said they were disturbed by the ejection of the delegate from the AU.

“Israel is a fully accredited member of the AU and the Israeli delegation led by Miss Bar-Li was fully accredited to attend.

It is alleged that South Africa and Algeria are behind this move.

We call on the South African government and Algeria to take a de-hyphenated approach to the conflict between the Israelites and the Palestinians.”

Israel has proven itself to be a valuable partner for peace and development in the continent of Africa.There are 3.5 million South Africans who are benefiting from fresh food brought to them by Israeli water and solar power technology. We call on the South African government to take seriously its role in the AU and be a driver of peace between Palestine and Israel,“ she said.

Cape Times